The Simplified Wealth of Nations of Adam Smith, Book 5, Chapter 1j: The African Company
Chapter 1j: The African Company of Merchants (1752-1821)
Long after the time of Sir Josiah Child, in 1750, a regulated company was established, the present company of merchants trading to Africa.
- The 23rd of George II. c. 31 established this company.
- It had two objects:
- To restrain the oppressive and monopolizing spirit natural to the directors of a regulated company, andand
- To force them to be attentive in maintaining forts and garrisons, something unnatural to them
- At first, it was expressly charged with the maintenance of all the British forts and garrisons between Cape Blanc and the Cape of Good Hope.
- Afterwards, it maintained only those between Cape Rouge and the Cape of Good Hope.
For the first purpose, the fine for admission is limited to 40 shillings.
- The company is prohibited from:
- trading in their corporate capacity or on a joint stock,
- borrowing money on common seal, and
- laying any restraints on the trade which may be carried on freely from all places, and by all persons being British subjects, and paying the fine.
- The government is in a committee of nine persons who meet at London.
- They are chosen annually by the freemen of the company at London, Bristol, and Liverpool, three from each place.
- No committee member can be in office for more than three years.
- After being heard in his own defence, any committee member can be removed by the Board of Trade and Plantations.
- They are now removed by a committee council.
- The committee is forbidden from:
- exporting negroes from Africa, and
- importing any African goods into Great Britain.
- They are charged with the maintenance of forts and garrisons.
- They may export goods from Great Britain to Africa for that purpose.
- They are allowed to receive from the company:
- up to £800 for the salaries of their clerks and agents at London, Bristol, and Liverpool,
- the house-rent of their office at London, and
- all other expences of management, commission, and agency in England.
- What remains of this sum after defraying these expences may be divided among themselves as compensation.
- These rules were expected to restrain the spirit of monopoly of the directors.
- By the 4th of George III. c. 20. the fort of Senegal with all its dependencies was vested in the company of merchants trading to Africa.
- In the next year (by the 5th of George III. c. 44.), Senegal, its dependencies and the whole coast from the port of Salé in Morocco to Cape Rouge was exempted from the jurisdiction of that company.
- Those areas were vested in the crown.
- The trade to them was declared free to all his Majesty's subjects.
- The company was suspected of restraining the trade and establishing some improper monopoly.
- It is not very easy to conceive how they could do so under the regulations of the 23rd of George II.
- The printed debates of the House of Commons are not always the most truthful records.
- In those debates, the company was accused of this monopoly.
- The members of the committee of nine were all merchants.
- Their governors and factors in their forts and settlements were all dependent on them.
- It is likely that the governors and factors gave peculiar attention to the consignments and commissions of the committee to establish a real monopoly.
The act's second purpose was the maintenance of forts and garrisons.
- Around £13,000 was allotted to the company by parliament.
- The committee is obliged to account this sum annually to the Cursitor Baron of Exchequer.
- Its account is afterwards laid before Parliament.
- But Parliament gives so little attention to the application of millions.
- It is not likely to give much attention to £13,000 a year.
- The profession and education of a Cursitor Baron of Exchequer is not likely to be skilled in the proper expence of forts and garrisons.
- The captains of his Majesty's navy or any commissioned officers appointed by the Board of Admiralty may:
- inquire into the condition of the forts and garrisons, and
- report their observations to that board.
- But that board has no direct jurisdiction over the committee.
- It has no authority to correct the committee's conduct.
- The captains of his Majesty's navy are not experts in fortifications.
- The committee's term can only last for three years.
- Its lawful emoluments are very small.
- Removal from this office is the utmost punishment for any committee member for any fault except direct malversation or embezzlement of money.
- The fear of that punishment can never be a sufficient motive to force a continual and careful attention to a business he has no interest in.
- The committee is accused of sending out bricks and stones from England to repair the Cape Coast Castle on the coast of Guinea.
- Parliament granted an extraordinary sum of money for that purpose several times.
- These bricks and stones were sent on a long voyage.
- They were of so bad quality that it was necessary to rebuild the walls repaired with them.
- The forts and garrisons north of Cape Rouge are maintained at the expence of the state and governed by it.
- There seems no good reason why the forts and garrisons south of Cape Rouge maintained at state expence should be under a different government.
- The protection of the Mediterranean trade was the original purpose of the Gibraltar and Minorca garrisons.
- The maintenance and government of those garrisons was always very properly committed to the executive power, not to the Turkey Company.
- The executive power takes pride and dignity in the extent of its dominion.
- It is not very likely to fail in attention for the defence of that dominion.
- The Gibraltar and Minorca garrisons have never been neglected.
- Minorca was twice taken and is now probably lost forever.
- That disaster was never imputed to any neglect by the executive power.
- I do not insinuate that those expensive garrisons was ever necessary for their separation from the Spanish monarchy.
- The only real purpose for that separation was:
- to unite the two branches of the house of Bourbon in a much stricter and more permanent alliance than blood ties could unite
- to alienate the King of Spain from England
- The King of Spain is England's natural ally.
Next: Chapter 1k: Private Copartneries